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Running the Roman Home by Alexandra Croom (NF)

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Running the Roman Home by Alexandra Croom (NF)

Post by parthianbow » Fri October 12th, 2012, 9:02 am

One of the most frustrating things about writing novels set more than 2,000 years ago is the dearth of details about ordinary life. All too often, the ancient texts that survive (Pliny, Plutarch, Livy et al) are rich on the detail of wars, politics and important men of the time. It's understandable that such historians didn't linger on the minutiae of what went on in their own houses, or in the streets of the cities in which they lived - if writing a history of the here and now, what 21st century writer would think to comment on the wonders of the flushing toilet, or the various recycling bins that we all have to deal with each week before our rubbish is picked up by the council? The ancient historians probably didn't comment on such things because a) they were boring and b) they were an understood part of life at the time. There was no need to mention them. Fast forward 2,000 years, however, to a time in which many of us long to know the exact details of day-to-day Roman life and one is left feeling very frustrated.

So when a book such as this comes along, it is to be welcomed with open arms. The author is Keeper of Archaeology at Tyne & Wear Archives and Museum, so she knows her onions. She has collected together what information remains about the supply of water, fuel and items such as wool, details about the cleaning of houses and clothes, sanitary facilities or the lack of them, and waste disposal. Best of all, she has compared what we know of Roman times to studies of societies in the world today who still largely live in this manner. The extrapolations made are naturally theory, not fact, but they make a lot of sense. The book is short but well-written and full of interesting diagrams and photos. There is a decent bibliography at the back as well. In short, this would make an excellent addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in ancient Rome. Thoroughly recommended.
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

Twitter: @benkaneauthor

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Justin Swanton
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Post by Justin Swanton » Fri October 12th, 2012, 1:48 pm

Very interesting, Ben. I did my research the hard way, bit by bit. Still trying to find out if the follis was in circulation at the end of the 5th century and if so, what it was used for to buy.

The nice thing about obscure periods is that one hsa great storytelling freedom - one needs only to be plausible which makes it easy to fit hypotheses to the needs of the plot. I made my Syagrian army very professional and very Roman, and why not? You can't prove it didn't have plumbarii. :D
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

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Post by fljustice » Fri October 12th, 2012, 4:26 pm

Thanks, Ben. Love those specialized museum books. I always cart home a bag or two when visiting museums in my travels. I also like the Handbook to Life in... series by Facts of File for an overview of everyday life. I've got the Rome, Greece and Egypt ones and found them quite useful. Some subjects required more specialized books, but for most things they fit the bill. They're a little pricey, but readily available from most libraries for those writers on a budget.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website

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Favourite HF book: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
Preferred HF: Any time period/location. Timeslip, usually prefer female POV. Also love Gothic melodrama.
Location: Northeast Scotland

Post by Lisa » Thu November 15th, 2012, 4:19 pm

That does sound really interesting. It reminds me of a book I read quite a few years back, A Woman's Place: An Illustrated History of Women at Home from the Roman Villa to the Victorian Town House by Marjorie Filbee. I remember finding the Roman section of it fascinating, describing different aspects of domestic life in Roman villas in Britain, although obviously it wouldn't have been as detailed as an entire book.

I need to dig that out and give it a re-read (and a review!), and see if it's actually as good as I remember.

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